Fixed-Blade Knives

A sturdy fixed-blade knife is the most important piece of ODC gear. A large fixed-blade, coupled with a folding saw, is an essential wilderness tool. It is needed for chopping down branches and saplings (please do not cut live trees outside of an emergency), splitting wood, shaving wood, fashioning shelter parts, cleaning game, and as a defensive weapon in case your ammunition runs out. You should keep a large fixed-blade knife in your survival pack and always carry one with you into the wilderness.


When selecting a fixed-blade knife, you should look for the following characteristics:

• Quality steel blade (San Mai III VG-1, 6150, 1095, Carbon V, etc)

• Full tang (the full length of the knife must consist of a single piece of steel from tip to pommel)

• Blade length of approximately 8" to 12"

• Blade thickness of at least 3/16"

• Handle made of high-impact polymer (Zytel) or laminate (G-10)

• Straight edge (serrations are difficult to sharpen and they are only moderately helpful for certain cutting tasks)

• Lanyard hole

• Pommel suitable for hammering

Kydex sheath with nylon web belt loop and water drain hole


Clip-point and drop-point blade shapes tend to be the most useful for the widest range of cutting tasks, however tanto blades can be beneficial in circumstances where probing and prying will be more common than slicing and wood-processing, such as in urban environments (I like to carry a tanto in snow and ice conditions). Your fixed-blade knife should be hefty enough for chopping, and it should have a flat spine or – if it's a bowie/clip point – a false-edge, so that your baton won't get chewed up when splitting wood. No matter what, do not cheap-out and buy a junk knife at the hardware store or flea market; the knife will be useless and you'll end up paying more over time to replace broken junk knives than you will buying one quality folding knife. Expect to pay $60 to $200+ for a quality fixed-blade survival knife. I have carried a Cold Steel Recon Scout or Trail Master in Sam Mai III VG-1 steel on wilderness expeditions for about a decade. I carry the Recon Scout for general use in mild weather and the Trail Master in cold weather when wood processing can be more essential. The fixed-blades below all meet my quality standards and characteristic requirements at a reasonable price.

I am going to begin carrying my MM USA Minuteman, Patriot and Freedom Bowies this year. Photos will be posted on the Knives page (see link in button bar above)!


Cold Steel Recon Scout

Made in Taiwan

7.5" blade (full flat grind)

O-1 high carbon steel (San Mai III no longer available)

CS Recon Scout

Cold Steel Drop Forged Survivalist

Made in Taiwan

8" blade (full flat grind)

52100 high carbon steel (ball bearing steel)

CS Drop Forged Survivalist

Cold Steel Trail Master

Made in Japan

9.5" blade (convex grind)

VG-1 San Mai III stainless steel (the best!)

CS Trail Master

Ontario RTAK II

Made in USA

10.25" blade (full flat grind)

5160 high carbon steel (leaf spring steel)

Ontario RTAK II

Ontario Gen II SP-50

Made in USA

8.8" blade (full flat grind)

5160 high carbon steel (leaf spring steel)

Ontario SP-50

ESEE Junglas

Made in USA

10.38" blade (full flat grind)

1095 high carbon steel (traditional cutlery steel)

ESEE Junglas

Kabar BK-9

Made in USA

9" blade (flat saber grind)

1095 CroVan carbon tool steel (traditional cutlery steel)

KaBar BK9